James Sands will return to New York City FC, after Rangers FC terminated his loan spell early. 

The midfielder was originally set to stay with the Scottish Premiership side through June 2023 but concluded the deal and declined to exercise the purchase option for the midfielder, forcing his return to Major League Soccer. 

Sands will now be available for the match against Chicago Fire, subject to receipt of his ITC.

“It was a priority for us to try and ensure James returned to New York this season. Despite opportunities to continue his career in Europe, we are pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement on a new contract and convince James that this is the right place for his continued career progression,” NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a release.  

“We know James’ ambition remains to play at the highest levels in Europe and we will continue to support him with his career aspirations. James is not only a special player; he is also a natural leader and fantastic role model, and with his added experience in Europe, we see him as a key player who will immediately help our team contend for more trophies. Since day one, our fans have been supportive of James and I’m sure that the return of one of their own and a player of his caliber will be a moment of celebration.”

The midfielder managed one goal in 41 games across all competitions for Rangers, featuring in the 2021 Europa League final and UEFA Champions League group play. He also propelled the team to lift the 2022 Scottish Cup.  

Sands is now set to play an integral part of NYCFC, as the team navigates several roster changes. Key figures like Sean Johnson, Alexander Callens and Maxi Morales departed during the offseason, leaving NYCFC with certain holes to fill. 

But the player’s versatility as a defensive midfielder enables head coach Nick Cushing to focus on strengthening other areas of the squad. The midfield now includes Sands, alongside Keaton Parks, Maxime Chanot and Thiago Martins, giving NYCFC options and depth. 

“As I return to New York, I am looking forward to playing with some of my former teammates as well as many new ones,” Sands said. “I’m excited about the club’s vision for the future and hope I can use my experience abroad to help the club achieve its goals and bring home some more silverware for our incredible fans.”

Sands played a key role in the team’s historic MLS Cup run in 2021, starting all postseason matches to contribute to the success.

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